I chose the documentary as it had a running time and location that would give me a chance to see "Rams," an Icelandic film in Uncertain Regard at eleven. I was also tricked into seeing it as Lars Von Trier was listed in the cast. Kier had appeared in "Breaking the Waves" and was a friend of his, but his appearance in the movie was simply a joke. Kier does visit him during the shooting of the documentary, but the two of them simply sit and read for a minute or so. Not a word comes out of Von Trier's mouth, not even a greeting. The whole movie was less than honest. Kier does like art and was a friend of Warhol and Mapplethorpe and others, but he's hardly an "arteholic" and has very little to say about the art that is shown in the movie. He does like to be on camera though, and somehow managed to get a totally unnecessary documentary, a most indulgent, giant-selfie, made about himself. Usually one can find some redeeming value in any documentary. I did learn in this one that the signature chapter scenes in "Breaking the Waves" were designed by an artist friend of his and not by Von Trier.
The documentary at least did allow me to see "Rams," a classic Icelandic story of sheep farmers who have to destroy their flocks because a disease has been discovered in them. This is the nightmare of every Icelandic farmer, and in particular two brothers who live side by side but haven't spoken in forty years. The scenery was magnificent as were the abundance of lush beards. This was a full cultural immersion, the next best thing to bicycling around the island as I did the summer before I began coming to France for Cannes and The Tour de France.
The Italian Matteo Garrone is known for making movies about his culture. He turned his back on that in his Competition entry "Tale of Tales," which I stood in line for over an hour in its repeat screening today in the Soixante. Not all in line gained entry, despite the tepid reviews. The most tepid came from Michel Ciment, the most respected of French reviewers. He gave it a rare zero stars, meaning it had no redeeming value. He was absolutely right. This series of three fairy tales were utterly inconsequential grotesqueries. Since his last two films in Competition had won awards he was given the best odds by bookmakers to win the Palm d 'Or this year. This proves how utterly useless such predictions are by those who haven't even seen the movies they are speculating about.
I got right in line afterwards for yesterday's other Compeition film, "Our Little Sister" from Japan that had been better reviewed. It was the second film of the day I was turned away from. That allowed me to see a "Sembene!," a documentary on the father of African cinema. As I was waiting in line, Jason Silverman, a fellow staffer from the Telluride film festival who used to direct the Taos film festival and now programs an art house in New Mexico greeted me. I was shocked to see him and furthermore that he was wearing a suit. The biggest shock was that he had co-directed the film. I had no idea. And then Mark Steele, a former Telluride staffer, came over. He had co-produced the film. They said this wasn't its world premiere, as it had opened at Sundance.
This solid bio-pic was a narrative by the other co-director of the film, Samba Gadigo, a Senglese admirer of Sembene's who now taught in the US. Sembene died a few years ago, but there was ample interview material of him to make it seem he had been a full collaborator on the film. There were clips aplenty from his many films. This wss a most worthwhile contribution to the world of cinema. The ninety minute documentary was followed by a recently restored "Black Girl" from 1966 about the less than pleasant experiences of young black woman who works as a servant for a young French couple, first in Dakar and then in France. Seeing both of these was more than worth being shut out of "Our Little Sister," which I'll have a chance to see in the days to come, unlike these films.
I was denied the conclusion of "Black Girl" as I had to meet Ralph at 7:45 in front of the credentials office, as he had just flown in from LA via Zurich and I had to give him keys to our apartment. He said he had slept well on the eleven hour flight and was eager for a movie or two. Unfortunately the credentials office had closed at six and he'd have to pick up his credentials at nine the next morning, also preventing him from seeing the 8:30 a.m. Compeition screening. He was too thrilled to be here for the fourth time and with nine days of cinema had wasn't too chagrined.
After the handing over of the keys I rushed back into the Palais complex of screening rooms for "Shades of Truth," an attempt at a movie about a Jewish journalist who looks like Robet Redford seeking the truth about whether Pope Pius XII was a Nazi sympathizer. I was drawn to this movie as Pope Pius XII consecrated the Madanna del Ghisallo chapel overlooking Lake Como as a bicyclist's shrine in 1949. The journalist goes to Rome, Israel, Berlin and Spain meeting with people who convince him that the Pope saved the lifes of hundreds of Jews, including his parents he learns at the end of the movie. It was a nice little history lesson, but a very feeble movie filled with miscast actors, including the journalist's heavily made up girl friend and boss, who looked as of the director had plucked them off a model's runaway thinking their good looks would look nice on the screen.
Per usual I was able to end the day with an "Un Certain Regard" film, this time from South Korea, that looked all that more stylish and accomplished compared to what I had just seen. A young, very determined and idealistic detective in "The Shameless" goes undercover in a brothel seeking a murderer. This was more like it, and a fine way to end the day. I was only sorry I wasn't able to discuss it with Ralph on a hike back to our apartment. Instead, for probably the last time I rode my bike home.